Institute News

Animated film about Warsaw Ghetto Uprising features Institute’s testimony

Maria Gorska was a smuggler. Dressed in her religious habit, the Catholic nun helped parents plot their children’s escapes from the Warsaw Ghetto, narrowly avoiding the clutches of the raids that would otherwise have sent them to concentration camps.

But her rescuing days came to an abrupt end on April 19, 1943 – 76 years ago today – when Jewish residents of the district rose up in what would become known as the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

“The outbreak of the Ghetto Uprising was one of the most tragic moments of my life,” Gorska says in testimony collected by USC Shoah Foundation in 1998.

Gorska’s testimony clip is featured in There Was No Hope, a film produced by POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews. Widely circulated among Polish schools for the past three years, the animated film chronicles the event’s history and features clips from five survivor testimonies in USC Shoah Foundation’s Visual History Archive.

The museum says that hundreds of thousands of Polish students have seen the film since it premiered in 2016.

In the film, Gorska explains that few were lucky to leave the ghetto alive. In fact, a total of 13,000 Jews would die during a fight to oppose Nazi Germany’s final transport of the ghetto population to the Majdanek and Treblinka concentration camps.

An aid giver and rescuer, Gorska was captured and sent away.

“I was in tears,” she says in the film, “wondering: Dear God, what will those people do, locked in and imprisoned? Doomed not to fight, like we were during the uprising, but to be killed.”

Today, on the anniversary of the onset, the people of Warsaw commemorate the uprising by pinning paper daffodils onto their lapels – a symbol of mourning for the Jews who died fighting for freedom. They also screen the film, which was produced as part of an educational campaign to honor those who participated in the uprising and its significance. 

The film also includes clips of survivor testimony from Janina Bauman, David Jakubowski, Maria Berland and Maria Szarach -- an addition made possible through USC Shoah Foundation’s longtime partnership with POLIN Museum.